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Information on how to write project exit, sustainability and business plans.

Project planning: Exit, sustainability and business plans

Develop an exit and a sustainability plan for what should happen to project outputs at the end of the project, and to explore which ones should be sustained further and how.

Sustainability is about what happens to project outputs after the project. Some project outputs will be archived at the end of the project, some will live on after the project ends (e.g. content hosted by a service) and others may be taken up and transformed .

Project plans

From the start of the project, you should  plan for what will happen to the outputs at the end  as sustainability has implications for work done during the project. 

  • The  Exit  Plan is needed to complete the project and get the best value from the work that has been funded
  • The  Sustainability  Plan is an assessment of which project outputs should be sustained after the project ends, how, and by whom

In developing the exit and sustainability plans, you should be guided by the programme manager and any requirements given in the call or letter of grant. Some projects create a product or service specifically intended to be sustained, with requirements about design, service levels, intellectual property, etc. which must be followed.

Exit plan

Step 1: Revisit project outcomes
Revisit the project outcomes you anticipate, the changes your project will stimulate or enable, and its impact on the teaching, learning, and research communities. Your outcomes may relate to what people will be able to do better, faster, or more efficiently because of what you’ve done or learned.

Step 2: Action for take-up
What take-up and embedding activities are there?  Your project outputs may include tools, models, guidelines, methods, case studies, knowledge, or recommendations that can be taken up by the community if correctly disseminated. Think about what you need to do to encourage take-up (e.g. to ensure that tools and models are used, guidelines or criteria adopted). Consider stakeholdesr views and  how to make outputs available and accepted. 

Step 3: Action for exit
Your exit plan. should consider access, preservation, maintenance, and intellectual property:

  • Access  Who will host the deliverables after the project ends?  Will they be available on your project web site?  Have you made other arrangements for hosting?
  • Preservation  All deliverables must be archived in the appropriate Jisc data centre or managed repository, and core project documents must be archived in the Jisc records management system.  What preservation issues need to be addressed before this happens?
  • Maintenance  What supporting documentation will be needed to maintain deliverables, e.g. specs, user guides, technical documentation?  Will any ongoing maintenance be needed and what will it cost?
  • Intellectual property  What third-party rights need to be cleared to make sure deliverables can be accessible to the teaching, learning, and community after the project ends?  If you’re developing open source software, which open source license would be appropriate?

The project plan template has a table to complete indicating the action needed for take-up and exit.   

You may not know all the answers at the start of the project, but think through the issues and develop a short plan that you can build on later. Thinking about take-up and embedding will inform your dissemination plan. Thinking about issues like access, maintenance, and IPR may have implications for project work.

Sustainability plan

Step 4: Sustainable outputs
For many projects, there won’t be sustainable outputs. The work the project has done has been taken up by the community, leading to changes in thinking and practice. But for some projects there may be sustainable outputs, particularly in the area of content, software, and tools. You may be creating content that could be made available to the teaching, learning, or research communities on a permanent basis or to other sectors. You may be developing software or tools that could be developed further and licensed for different types of applications. Try to identify the outputs for your project that should live on after the project ends, who will want them, and why.

Step 5: Sustainability options
Think about who will carry outputs forward and  how– what are the issues that will need to be addressed to make your outputs self-sustaining?   Ideas you  have can be discussed with Jisc throughout the project. Thinking through scenarios at the start will help you address the issues as they arise

Think about the partners you may need  to take your outputs forward. For a technical standard, a standards organisation could take if forward. For content, you will need an online host. A pilot system or prototype software may need a technical partner to help develop it further. 

Issues to think about:  

  • Market need  There should be a genuine market need that isn’t currently filled by other products or services. Your  evaluation plan should ensure that what you’ve created is useful and wanted by the community.
  • Quality  Sustainable outputs need to be fit for purpose, of high quality, and created using appropriate standards and best practice. Your quality plan will ensure this is the case.
  • Intellectual property  You must ensure that any intellectual property rights are cleared to make outputs available after the project ends. Software should be registered.
  • Investment  In most cases, investment will be needed to develop products further, and in all cases a sound business model will be needed to make them self-sustaining.

The project plan template has a table for sustainability to list scenarios for taking your work forward and issues to address.  Thinking about the issues T the start of the project will inform the project work.

Business plans

Where you wish to exploit deliverables commercially  after funding ceases, you should submit a business plan with economic models demonstrating how the product or service will be self-sustaining. The timing for the business plan to be created might be around the project mid-point. The plan could cover the following topics:

  • Market analysis  Market need, market sectors(s), users and user needs, competition
  • Product/service  Definition of the product/service, benefits, unique selling points, critical success factors, cost-benefit analysis compared to competition
  • Infrastructure  Hardware, software, hosting, delivery, processes, standards, facilities, maintenance
  • Future development  Upgrading infrastructure, updating content
  • Expertise needed  Competencies, partners needed and their roles, staff, suppliers, outsourcing
  • Management  Leadership, organisation, staffing, administration
  • Economic models  Setup/ongoing costs, investment, income generation (e.g. sales, subscriptions, third-party licensing, advertising, sponsorship)
  • Marketing  Market sectors, marketing and promotion, training and support
  • Legal and intellectual property  IP rights needed, licensing and legal agreements, digital rights management, software registration
  • Risk assessment and management, including financial risks
  • Timing  Overall timescale, phasing, milestones

Before preparing a business plan,  review the letter of grant for any implications of commercial exploitation of project outputs.  Discuss your plans with the programme manager and any programme advisory board for advice and guidance.

Programme strategy

The programme manager will develop a sustainability strategy at programme-level.  Giving consideration to the outputs most likely to be sustainable in the long term in the context of the programme’s objectives and anticipated outcomes.  Processes necessary for embedding, and take-up by the community will be considered.  The programme manager will share the programme strategy with you,which will provide a framework for planning exit/sustainability strategies at project-level.

Further resources